I’m torn about this piece. Now, before that statement completely turns you off to the idea of going to see this movie, let me explain myself…
I guess I should start by saying that this film is, as advertised, rated a very hard “R” for a reason. This is a gore-fest unlike any I’ve ever seen in mainstream cinema. So…the squeamish amongst you, beware: this film is chock-full of intense moments—including, yes, some extremely gory ones. That said, this is a very delightful film—the perfect blend of humor, darkness, dark humor and humorous darkness—that a true connoisseur could eat right up. I’m usually not one for copious amounts of violence in my cinema, but this film is…different. Though entertaining, it certainly is a twisting, wrenching hour-and-a-half.
As far as passion projects go, James Gunn has written a doozy. It starts out as a meta-comedy, switches gears into a whodunit, and then into the slaughterhouse picture it was advertised as, climaxing in a “good v. evil” final battle. One character arc—the first that we’re introduced to, really—is literally shot in the head in the third act. Fairly close to the end of the picture, it feels like wasted potential. If seen come full-circle, it would have been just as satisfying, without all that screen-time shown us in vain—especially since the character kind of grew on me, throughout the film. It was just like, “Alright, I guess that’s over.” While jarring, it was a shrug-and-forget-it thing. No sense dwelling on what one can’t fix.
Tony Goldwyn (Tarzan, Ghost)’s Barry Norris has an imposing on-screen presence here, very domineering baddie. It’s snuck in there that his character has an “advantage” in surviving, being special forces-trained, and he really wears that. He’s actually a big guy, filling out his character well, and giving the audience the sense that he could go ape any second—clearly teetering on the edge long before given the excuse by the illusive man on the loud-speaker. However, his motivations are…noble, if not a bit twisted. Likewise, those of John C. McGinley and Michael Rooker’s caliber make up a loveable cast of psychopaths that I just loved seeing rip each other a literal new one. The soundtrack, too, is just as psychotic—Latinized takes on popular tunes that anyone can recognize and hum along to, even without knowing a lick of Spanish.
While this film doesn’t deliver on its deeper examination of the human psyche—would we really, if left to our own devices, be able to kill those closest to us without s second thought, for the “greater good”?—it’s not the cinematic dumpster fire that other critics (even some of the ones that I, myself, follow) have made it out to be. Like I said, it’s a different kind of film; it’s a way to vicariously live out our animalistic fantasies, while retaining its singular nature and not giving all the answers we desire. It’s reminiscent of The Purge and the original Saw, but very much its own film.
The Belko Experiment’s premise is simple, and its filmmakers ask the audience to just not think for 90 minutes. It’s the antithesis of escapism—yes, we really are that horrible to one another, on a daily basis—but done in an entertainingly-vulgar way. Not completely sold on the thing, but I didn’t hate it; it’s not my new number-one, but I’d readily watch it over again. Plus, the ending set it up for a follow-up film, so I’ll be curious to see where that goes.
Final ‘Risk Assessment: N/A. There’s a first time for everything, folks.
Next review: Life (2017)